In its April 2015 issue of Stateline, an online newsletter, The Pew Charitable Trusts drew attention to the severe shortage of substance abuse specialists. The article discusses the prevalence of substance use disorders in the U.S. population, the impact of the Affordable Care Act on access to substance use treatment, and data on the workforce qualified to provide that treatment. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration tracks professional shortage areas for other health care specialties, such as mental health, but does not do the same for substance use. The article describes recent work by Jeff Zornitsky who used data from the U.S. Department of Labor on the workforce and data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the prevalence of substance use disorders to estimate the relative adequacy of the addiction treatment workforce in each state. The number of qualified providers available to treat every 1,000 individuals with a substance use disorder ranged from a low of 11 in Nevada to a high of 70 in Vermont. The Pew report also highlights U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the comparatively low pay for these professionals, with social workers in the addiction field making an average of $8630 less per year than their peers working in other areas of healthcare.
The Stateline article is available online.